In search of Atlantis: How to visit the exotic setting of the hit fantasy drama
Julian Murphy the co-creator of the hit TV series tells us where to find the lost land of myth
"M￼orocco was always top of the list for us,” says Atlantis co-creator and executive producer Julian Murphy. “We were looking for both landscapes and city streets, and Morocco has the Atlas Mountains, olive groves, vast desertscapes, undeveloped beaches and, of course, the beautiful, ancient kasbahs.” The scenery looks familiar? The likes of Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia and Game of Thrones were also filmed in this same desert spot where Minotaurs, satyrs, oracles and powerful kings don’t seem out of place. Murphy, who also co-created Merlin and is used to the challenges of bringing fantasy to life. He reveals how to visit the real Atlantis...
THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS
“The Assounfou area features in episodes one and four of the current series. It’s high in the Atlas Mountains and an incredible place,” explains Murphy. “These are the hills that Jason, Hercules and Pythagoras have to cross to get to the camp when they are being chased. “We chose to film here partly because it’s spectacular and has these incredible rolling hills. It was exactly the landscape we needed. It’s on the main road from Marrakech over the Atlas Mountains, desolate and very beautiful. It’s a stunning drive, a windy, spectacular path that goes through these beautiful landscapes. Quite scary, but stunning – everyone should experience it.”
LE BERBERE PALACE
Movie stars and executives stay at this luxury retreat in Ouarzazate, the only five-star hotel in the area. “Le Berbere is a gorgeous building,” says Murphy, who stayed here while filming Atlantis – the town is also home to a celebrated film studio. “It’s a famous film hotel and is full of memorabilia from the past 30 or 40 years. It has lots of props and a lovely pool.” If guests are lucky, they can book the suites Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt occupied while filming Babel, or where Russell Crowe bedded down during the shoot of Gladiator.
THE MUD FORTS
“Just 20 minutes down the road from the Le Berbere Palace is Ait Benhaddou, in an area full of big mud forts and fortified towns,” explains Murphy. “Ait Benhaddou is the most famous town of its kind and also featured in Gladiator. We filmed Atlantis there last year, and it forms the outside of the town Helios. There are probably five or six other mud forts worth exploring in the area, too.”
“Although we didn’t film in Marrakech itself, we got a lot of props from there,” says Murphy. “A lot of stuff you see in Atlantis is handmade, which is very ￼important to us. We took a lot design influences from Moroccan wares, and a lot of costumes from Marrakech. It’s much more than just a place, you get a feeling there that you simply wouldn’t get from Western European markets. The city has had a big influence on the series.”
MOROCCO’S GRAND CANYON
“The wonderful Todra Gorge is like the Grand Canyon. It’s a spectacular deep, narrow gorge that goes on for five or six miles. It’s very, very remote.” That said, keen hikers and travellers can find it 15 minutes north of the town of Tinerhir, east of Marrakech. “We did a recce there but decided that it was just too remote for filming, but this is true Atlantis territory and if you’re travelling you can drive there and be back in a day from Ouarzazate.”
A CLASSIC OASIS
Finte is an oasis south of Ouarzazate, surrounded by huge towering cliffs, with a beautiful river and lovely palm trees. “We used this huge cliff filming Atlantis last year, and this year you see it during the approach to Atlantis in episode one. This spot also features in episode four, when some new characters are crossing the desert. It’s also recognisable from Game of Thrones [Daenerys meets Unsullied commander Grey Worm here] and is an oasis in the classic sense of the word. Everywhere around it is barren, but there’s this patch of green, and clear, fresh water you can swim in.”
Watch Atlantis series 2 at 8.15pm, every Saturday, on BBC1